Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act

Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act. The Guardian, October 25, 2016.

Pollution from drugs factories, many in India and China, is causing the spread of anti-microbial resistance. Pharma companies are under pressure to act 

antibiotic

A strain of the E coli bacteria. Pollution from pharmaceutical production is a factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Illustration: Janice Carr/AP

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are a fundamental threat to global health, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon recently told a general assembly meeting. Failure to address the problem, he said, would make it “difficult if not impossible” to provide universal healthcare, “and it will put the sustainable development goals in jeopardy”.

For pharmaceutical companies the attention on antimicrobial resistance has also brought a focus on one of its key drivers: the unabated environmental pollution of drug factories in developing countries.

In India and China, where a large proportion of antibiotics are produced, the poorly regulated discharge of untreated wastewater into soils and rivers is causing the spread of antibiotic ingredients which cause bacteria to develop immunity to antibiotics, creating superbugs.

A study of wastewater factories in China found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding. For every bacterium that entered one waste treatment plant, four or five antibiotic-resistant bacteria were released into the water system, tainting water, livestock and communities.

Read the complete article.

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